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Practicing Gratitude with Small Children


Children gain the same benefits as adults from practicing gratitude:

  • They feel better about themselves
  • Their mood improves
  • Their sleep quality is better
  • They have fewer physical problems
  • Their ability to cope with life’s ups/downs improves

However, it can be challenging to impress on your 3-5 year old the importance of being grateful!  That’s because children typically develop their empathy skills gradually as they grow older and keep developing those skills as adolescents.   Empathy is an important element in developing gratitude because it allows us to “put ourselves in someone else’s shoes” so we can better understand how they feel and by extension realize that they are doing something kind/generous for us, and be grateful.

So, keeping in mind that the concept of gratitude might be hard for young children to understand, here are a few fun ideas for engaging in gratitude:

  • What made you smile today? Find a time of day, preferably something you/your child do daily (eat, brush teeth, bedtime routine, etc.), and ask “what made you smile today?”   Asking this simple question each day will help them think about what they are grateful for!
  • The “thank you” game: Pick a day to play and keep track of how many opportunities you/your child can find to say, “thank you”! Focusing on the opportunities, even for a day, will bring to light how many times a day people do something nice for us!
  • Acts of Kindness: Think about ways your child can perform a random act of kindness for someone. It could be for another family member in your home, even the dog (a nice walk outside, or a belly rub), a card for a neighbor, helping make a special snack for a sibling … anything really!    This helps kids, who are naturally and normally focused more on themselves, think about how someone else and practice kindness, and gratitude for someone/something they care about.
  • Nature Gratitude: Take a walk outside … in your yard, around the block, or just sit outside … and notice! What can your child see/hear?  Take this opportunity to help them be grateful for the beauty they see, the sounds they hear,     Being grateful for the earth and taking care of it for the future.
  • Chores: Assigning appropriate tasks to children so they can help around the house can help kids appreciate the work that happens at home, and the effort it takes to clean up, make meals, clean clothes, etc. Young children can help you clean up their toys, tidy their room, and “help” in the kitchen by stirring cake batter in a bowl, etc. with adult supervision.

Hopefully these ideas will help get you started on your gratitude journey with your young child!


Conway, Sarah Gratitude for Kids:  Why it’s important and how to encourage it, Posted Oct. 28, 2018 In Building Emotional Intelligence, Building Resilience, Gratitude.

Schwartz, Sandi 10 Science-Backed Benefits of Practicing Gratitude with Kids, Posted May 25, 2016, Parent Co., Parent.com